Tillerson to visit the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia in swing through Southeast Asia

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2017, 2:34am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2017, 3:23am

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia August 5 to August 9, the State Department said on Tuesday.

The meetings are expected to focus on US policy toward Asia following the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in January, as well as a rising threat of terrorism in the region such as the siege by Islamic State-linked militants of the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

“During these meetings, Secretary Tillerson will meet with his counterparts and discuss a range of issues including the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, maritime security, and counterterrorism,” the department said in a statement.

Tillerson is scheduled to participate in a US-ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting and a Lower Mekong Initiative ministerial meeting on Sunday, as well as a foreign ministerial meeting of the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum on Monday.

The EAS brings together the 10-member ASEAN and other regional powers such as Japan, China, South Korea, India, Russia and Australia. The ARF also involves North Korea.

“Secretary Tillerson’s travel reaffirms the administration’s commitment to further broaden and enhance US economic and security interests in the Asia-Pacific region,” the statement said.

In a draft of a joint statement to be issued after an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting Saturday in Manila, the 10 ministers will express “grave concern” about North Korea’s test ICBM launches on July 4 and last Friday.

“Noting that these developments threaten peace and stability in the region, we urged the DPRK to fully and immediately comply with its obligations under the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions” banning Pyongyang from conducting nuclear and missile activities, the draft statement says.

DPRK is an acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

During a visit to Bangkok, Tillerson will pay respects to Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and engage Thai officials on the “enduring” US-Thailand partnership and regional issues, according to the department.

In Kuala Lumpur, the top US diplomat will meet Malaysian officials to discuss strengthening cooperation on a range of issues in the 60th year of bilateral relations, it said.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.